Gay Servicemembers’ Group to Continue After DADT Ban
Born out of the necessity of helping members of the Armed Forces navigate the tortuous then-new policy of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," since 1993, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has the non-partisan, non-profit, legal services, watchdog and policy organization that fought to end discrimination against and harassment of LGBT military personnel.
SLDN has always been on the side of the young service man or woman getting the boot because of DADT. No other organization has directly dealt with more men and woman whose careers were ruined due to the discriminatory law. In all, SLDN’s in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,000 requests for assistance.
So it’s natural ask whether, when DADT breaths its last breath on September 20, SLDN will remain an active organization. The group’s executives say they will stay because as long as there is discrimination among the people who defend our freedoms.
The cornerstone of the organization’s mission will remain the same. However, added SLDN spokesperson Zeke Stokes, "In the post-repeal world, we will continue to be on the frontlines of advancing equality within the military by fighting alongside those who may face discrimination or harassment as we advocate for effective implementation of repeal; litigating in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military when necessary and timely; advocating for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assisting veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork."
In other words, there is still a lot of work to be done even after repeal officially takes effect on September 20.
SLDN has called on President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the military based on sexual orientation and gender identity. "The order would give LGBT service members recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing discrimination or harassment," Stokes explains.
There is no underplaying how effective SLDN’s contribution was to the DADT repeal. SLDN recounted the stories of veterans impacted by DADT, offered speakers to cable news channels during key moments in the repeal fight, and lobbied Congress. Among many others, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, Former Air Force Major Mike Almy, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, former Army Captain Tony Woods and Air Force Staff Sergeant David Hall were repeat guests on MSNBC programs.